Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), whose life may be read like a novel, conceived his work as a parody of tales of chivalry, and on the last page, saying goodbye to the reader, confirms that he “had no other desire, then to convince people aversion to false and absurd stories, described in the novels of chivalry”. It was a tremendously serious task for Spain of XVI-XVII centuries. By the beginning of XVII century, the era of chivalry in Europe was finished. However, during the century prior to the emergence of Don Quixote, about one hundred and twenty tales of chivalry were published in Spain. It was the most popular reading of all sectors of society. Many philosophers and moralists were against fatal passion to absurd inventions of obsolete genre. However, if the Don Quixote was just a parody of romance, this novel would not be so popular during many époques.
The fact is that in Don Quixote, a middle-aged artist Cervantes experimented with unintended consequences: he confided knightly ideal to contemporary Spanish reality, and as a result, his knight Don Quixote was wandering in space of the so-called picaresque novel. Picaresque novel is the story that emerged in Spain in the middle of the XVI century with the aim to describe the life of a swindler of a servant. The picaresque character is shallow; unfortunate fate makes him travel around the world, and his numerous adventures on the road of life are the main interest of a picaresque. Lofty ideal of chivalry is faced with this reality, and as a brilliant novelist Cervantes explores the consequences of a collision in his famous work. However, there are many other topics in Don Quixote.
In Don Quixote, the author summarizes the essential features of human nature: the romantic thirst to approval of the ideal in conjunction with the comic naivety and recklessness. The heart of “skinny and extravagant Knight” is burning with love for humanity. Don Quixote truly imbued with chivalry-humanistic ideal, but, unfortunately, completely isolated himself from reality. The secular martyrdom follows out of his mission of “corrective falsehood” in an imperfect world; his will and courage are manifested in an effort to be own self, in this sense, a pathetic old gentleman is one of the first heroes of the era of individualism. Noble fool Don Quixote and Sancho Panza complement each other. Therefore, Sancho admires his master, because he sees that Don Quixote rises above all people that they meet, his master is a pure altruist, who rejects all earthly things. Moreover, Don Quixote's madness is inseparable from his wisdom; the humor in the novel is connected with the tragedy that expresses the fullness of the Renaissance worldview. What is more, Cervantes, emphasizing the nature of the literary novel, makes it harder by the play with the reader. The image of Don Quixote attracted many readers and literary critics. For example, Hegel speaking about the features of the psychology of Don Quixote stated that Cervantes made his Don Quixote an originally noble, versatile and gifted spiritual nature. Don Quixote is a soul, which with all his madness is quite confident in what he is doing. Without this reckless calm to the nature and success of the acts, he would not be a true romantic; this self-confidence is enthusiastic and ingenious.
Don Quixote come to grips with the whole world, without the aim to win the heart of the incomparable Dulcinea, as well as he does not want to conquer the kingdom in order to increase the power of the Spanish crown; he just wants to destroy all the evil of the existing social order by eliminating of injustice in everyday manifestations. Unfortunately, he has no understanding of the new environment in which he must live and act. Failing to understand this new environment, Don Quixote is defeated, but even being defeated he continues to be the herald of the new day, the teacher of new generations. In accordance with Eisenberg, “Don Quixote's concept of chivalry is an exaggeration. Deeds are means toward an amorous goal; he wants to be helpful, but especially to females; chivalry, in short, is to him service to women (117).
The first part of a novel is structured in such a way that Don Quixote is the organizing center of all the events. The backgrounds of all these events are the wide desert plains of La Mancha: mountains, wild ravines, herds of goats, sheep and rams protected by shepherds. Furthermore, this basic background occasionally intersects by the invasion of civilized environment. Don Quixote is located in the center of all the events taking place around him, regardless of the extent of his participation in them.
The second part of the narrative is related quite differently. The gradual isolation of Don Quixote, the natural environment of his actions and deeds replaced by an artificial environment exists in this part. In the same sequence, epic elements disappear as well. Additionally, the core center of the novel is moved from the plebeian baseman into the upper strata of society. Don Quixote’s speech about ”the golden age” is a courageous call to rebuild life; it sounds as courageous criticism of existing social order, and, perhaps, echoes of utopian ideas that troubled Europe in this era sound in his speech.
The chimerical image of a beautiful lady, ethereal essence of which is taken from the poetry of chivalry, remains a chimera. However, Don Quixote’s surrounding reality raises a number of beautiful women (in the episodes and novels), and each of them represents Don Quixote’s dream of an ideal woman that differs from other people.
Race frames fall in the novel, despite the force of the impact of absolutist Catholic reaction. Simple peasant Sancho Panza warmly hugs his “enemy” on religion, Moor Ricote.
Sancho Panza, the Don Quixote's squire, is the exact opposite of silent and faceless chivalry henchmen. In Don Quixote, relationship between knight and squire at first determined by relations of the lord to vassal: they result from the relationships inherent in the feudal system. In the course of the narrative, remarkable contradictions emerge and worsen. Knight's ideology comes into sharp conflict with the consciousness of the peasant, with the new formation of commodity relations. That is the reason why Sancho helps his master in order to get governorship for himself; he strongly demands remuneration for their services, conflicts with his master on the money issue etc. Sancho Panza’s style is the mixture of innocence, kindness and evil; his numerous proverbs and sayings represent the weapon both of the attack and defense in his struggle against the ideological influence and humanist sermons of Don Quixote. Sancho Panza associates himself with his master in all issues regarding criticism of the existing system based on injustice, greed, bribery, and so on, but he stands firm on the basis of the unconditional recognition of the primacy of property and the preservation of a hierarchical basis of the social order, and if Don Quixote tries to make him believe in the idea of reforms, Sancho resists stubbornly.
Nevertheless, it is Sancho Panza who is a representative of the lower classes, and who is the main carrier of the socio-critical tendencies of the novel. Knight of La Mancha by himself stands aside and allows his squire claiming a direct criticism of the existing order. At the same time, Don Quixote is the true mastermind of this criticism; he justifies the protest ideologically. Social and political ideals of Don Quixote, the slogans of justice and mercy to the oppressed are inscribed on the banner of his knighthood and is a high justification of the criticism of the ruling order in the state.
Allusions, puns, comical accidents, stylized dialogue, irony, hyperbole – all these methods are used in order to make a story humorously colored. Throughout the whole novel, the main idea of the story comes into continuous conflict with its humorous interpretation.
Reality and fantasy, real and unreal are intertwined to the same extent in Don Quixote. Don Quixote sees windmills as mighty giants; in puppets he sees the real images of chivalry: engaging with them in the fight, he thus acts on the ground of reality. However, for Don Quixote's the reality is not reality, but a grand conspiracy of witches and giants; it should be said that the frames between the real and the unreal essentially erased and unreal becomes real. Bayliss stated that, without doubt, Don Quixote's life has continued long since Cervantes's death in 1616 and still to this day is the object of both interpretation and adaptation, reincarnated on the printed page and the artist's canvas, as a national monument, on the stages of both classical ballet and Broadway musical, and as the subject of both popular song and cinema as the namesake of an extraterrestrial venture. (382)
Don Quixote is not only the culmination of Cervantes creative life: it formally and ideologically ties together all the other works of the talented writer. As well as in other novels of Cervantes the protagonist of the story is a dreamer, and idealist who is not afraid to sacrifice his life for other people. Lastly, that is the reason why so many writers and poets, artists and filmmakers return to this image again and again. It speaks of the immortality of this literary image.